MSNBC's Morning Joe helped to legitimize House Republicans' witch-hunt into the Benghazi attacks by pushing some of Fox News' favorite myths about the tragedy.
House Republicans voted on Friday to establish a select committee on the 2012 Benghazi attacks, a move which follows months -- and years -- of Fox News pushing misinformation and consistently calling for Congress to further investigate Benghazi.
In the wake of the establishment of the select committee, right-wing media led by Fox have revived a litany of already-asked-and-answered questions on Benghazi, jumping off the White House's release of a September 14, 2012 email from Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes used to prepare Susan Rice for the Sunday talk shows after the attacks (despite the fact that the Rhodes' email was consistent with intelligence reports at the time and relied on CIA talking points).
Unfortunately, Fox was not alone -- MSNBC's Morning Joe has also legitimized the investigation by pushing debunked Benghazi myths.
From the May 7 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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From the May 2 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
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While discussing an effort to roll back a transgender non-discrimination law in Maryland, MSNBC's Ronan Farrow called out the right-wing "myth" about sexual predators entering trans-inclusive bathrooms.
On April 29, a conservative group in Maryland launched an effort calling for a referendum to repeal the recently enacted Fairness for All Marylanders Act, SB 212.
The group, MDPetitions.com, has chosen to refer to the measure as a "bathroom bill," even though the law prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, and a number of other areas not related to the use of restrooms.
It's a common conservative tactic meant to gin up fears about even basic protections for transgender people.
During the May 2 edition of MSNBC's Ronan Farrow Daily, Farrow discussed the effort to repeal SB 212, as well as the media's ongoing struggle to adequately cover the transgender community:
Mainstream media outlets attempted to cast doubt on White House press secretary Jay Carney's explanation that a memo advising Susan Rice on her TV appearances referred to global protests as opposed to the September 11 attack specifically. However Sunday news coverage from Rice's press tour demonstrates that discussions of Benghazi did include broader context of anti-American protests in the region, as Carney had asserted.
Fox News devoted no airtime to a report issued by the White House on protecting college students from sexual assault, while CNN dedicated fewer than 2 minutes of coverage. The networks' coverage paled in comparison to that of MSNBC.
Former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe and continued to lob accusations of bias at her former employer while offering no evidence to substantiate her charges.
Since leaving her former job as an investigative correspondent for CBS' Evening News, Attkisson has engaged in a media blitz notable for two goals: promoting her upcoming book and leveling substance-free accusations. In her appearance on Morning Joe on April 22, Attkisson continued this trend, suggesting that the lack of interest on the part of CBS News in pursuing some of her stories was due to political bias.
When offered an opportunity by co-host Mika Brzezinski to substantiate her claims, however, Attkisson refused, saying:
ATTKISSON: I decided for many reasons not go into a lot of detail. I'll probably write about some of this in the book when I can think it out and word it carefully. But it was just, to me, a huge variety of stories, and I'm certainly not the only one complaining about that, and it's not the only network where correspondents think this sort of thing is going on.
Attkisson's campaign of evidence-free accusations has been praised by the right, but has come under fire from media critics. Washington Post's Erik Wemple pointed out that both Attkisson's accusations of bias and her attacks on outlets such as Media Matters "rest on uncorroborated stuff":
In any case, Attkisson's claims against CBS News rest on uncorroborated stuff, as do her claims against Media Matters, as do certain of her suggestions about intrusions into her computers (though she promises news on that front). The more media interviews she does, the more she thrusts this un-journalistic tendency into the public sphere for the inspection of prospective employers. And the more she all but compels CBS News to strike back at her ramblings.
Invited to do just that today, CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair told the Erik Wemple Blog: "CBS News maintains the highest journalistic standards in what it chooses to put on the air. Those standards are applied without fear or favor."
Despite major developments in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and research in 2013, cable evening news shows devoted scant time to covering developments in the fight against HIV/AIDS in 2013. The lack of coverage of HIV/AIDS stories has continued into the first quarter of 2014.
Two Media Matters analyses suggest that over 85 percent of those quoted in the media about climate change are men. Several top women in the field denounced this disparity, noting that women will be disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change.
A review of a recent Media Matters analysis of print and television coverage of the U.N. climate reports found that women made up less than 15 percent of interviewees. A look back at our analysis of broadcast coverage of climate change unearthed the same stark disparity: less than 14 percent of those quoted on the nightly news shows and Sunday shows in 2013 were women.
Allison Chin, the former president of the Sierra Club, decried this gender gap in a statement to Media Matters:
The gender imbalance among those quoted on the climate crisis is striking, particularly since women around the world are more vulnerable to the dangers of climate disruption and among the most active in the movement for solutions. Globally, existing inequalities give women less access and less control over resources and make them more susceptible to the worst effects of extreme weather. The last thing the media should do is amplify that divide by only covering one set of perspectives.
Rebecca Lefton, senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress and an expert in international climate change policy and gender equality agreed, telling Media Matters that this is an environmental justice issue because "women are disproportionately impacted by climate change, especially in developing countries." Indeed, studies show, for instance, that women disproportionately suffer the impacts of extreme weather disasters, some of which are exacerbated by climate change, in part because they are more likely to be poor. Lefton added, "Without women's voices we lose the perspective of half of the population and without women's participation, the transition to a cleaner economy will be slower."
The lack of women's voices in climate change conversations in the media is not due to a shortage of powerful women in climate policy and communications. U.N. Climate Chief Christiana Figueres, who is in charge of negotiating a global climate treaty, noted in March that "women often bear the brunt in places where the impacts of climate change are already being felt." The last two heads of the Environmental Protection Agency, which is slated to come out with carbon pollution standards for future power plants, were both women -- current administrator Gina McCarthy and former administrator Lisa Jackson.
Media Matters has previously found that women make up only about a quarter of guests on the Sunday morning talk shows and weekday evening cable news segments on the economy. However, the gender gap on climate change conversations is even starker. One contributing factor may be that the climate sciences have experienced a "female brain drain," according to Scientific American, as have many other scientific fields. This "female brain drain" is also evident in the largely male leadership of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Women that do enter the field often face discrimination. Two prominent female climate scientists, Heidi Cullen and Katherine Hayhoe, have both been dismissed by Rush Limbaugh as "babe[s]." Hayhoe, an evangelical Christian who is one of the stars of a new Showtime series on climate change, told E&E News that much of the internet harassment she receives focuses on her gender:
The final installment of the U.N.'s top climate report, which calls for prompt, extensive action to avoid calamitous impacts from climate change, garnered relatively little attention from the major print, cable and broadcast media outlets compared to the first installment. However, coverage of the third report rightfully gave far less space to those who cast doubt on the science.
From the April 14 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
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The Department of Energy's clean energy loan program helped fuel the achievements of electric car company Tesla Motors, yet the major broadcast, cable and print media only mentioned the loan in 20 percent of their coverage of Tesla in 2013 (and in only 7 percent of coverage of Nissan's best-selling electric car, the Leaf). Meanwhile, 84 percent of coverage of Fisker, an electric car company that declared bankruptcy, mentioned its federal loan. This skewed coverage may have misinformed the public about the overwhelmingly positive success rate of the program.
From the April 8 edition of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show:
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Women accounted for a small share of total guests featured during weekday evening economic coverage on the three major cable news networks, despite a renewed focus on economic discussions that significantly affect American women.
A Media Matters analysis conducted over the past year revealed that women comprised just 28.4 percent of total guests featured in weekday evening segments dedicated to economic news and policy debates on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC.
Women make up slightly more than half of the total United States population and represent a significant majority of the voting public, but their voices remain vastly underrepresented in cable news segments on the economy.
Previous Media Matters studies have shown that weekday evening cable news coverage of the economy in particular fails to feature economists and experts. This failure is more shocking when measured in terms of gender -- women made up less than 10 percent of economist appearances in the past year.
Given that women make up more than 50 percent of the country, all economic issues are women's issues, and the lack of adequate female representation in these segments is a significant failure. But it is particularly glaring given the recent emphasis from policy makers and advocates across the political spectrum to highlight economic issues that disproportionately affect American women.
For example, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), roughly 56 percent of minimum wage workers are women, and recently dozens of women in the economics profession signed a public letter circulated by EPI imploring lawmakers to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. Raising the minimum wage to this level and tying it to inflation now has the support of congressional Democrats and the White House, but weekday cable guest lists have mostly not included female economists whose research and advocacy support the effort.
The lack of adequate female guest representation in economic discussions is not a result of a lack of available and qualified candidates. Heidi Hartmann, the president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR), is a prominent advocate for public policies focused on issues of particular importance to women. Economists Heidi Shierholz and Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute have written extensively on the impact of low wages on women and the importance of health care reform. Jeanneatte Wicks-Lim of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) also specializes on studying policy effects on low-wage workers. Michigan State University economist Lisa Cook has been a recurring guest on MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry in the past, but did not appear during MSNBC's evening weekday lineup in the past year. Christina Romer of the University of California, Berkeley is the former chair of the president's Council of Economic Advisers and co-authored President Obama's economic recovery plan in 2009 with economist Jared Bernstein, himself a regular guest on MSNBC.
The economics profession produces more than enough women with the talent necessary to advocate policies or comment on research in the cable news sphere. It is time for guest lists to start reflecting the diversity of opinion and expertise held by women in the field.
Less than two months after national media outlets spotlighted the debate over Arizona's proposed license-to-discriminate measure, CNN and Fox News completely ignored the passage of a similar measure in Mississippi that effectively sanctions the refusal of services to LGBT people.
On April 3, two days after the state legislature sent the bill to his desk, Gov. Phil Bryant (R-MS) signed the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act in a private ceremony attended by anti-gay hate group leader Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council (FRC). The law prohibits state actions that "substantially burden a person's right to the exercise of religion." According to legal experts, the law could allow, say, a health care worker to refuse fertility treatment to same-sex couples on the grounds that providing such care constituted a substantial burden on the worker's religion.
Like the Arizona measure, which Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed, the Mississippi law doesn't explicitly mention gay people. And unlike in Arizona, Mississippi lawmakers stripped language pertaining to businesses, conferring protections only on individuals.
But that was good enough for the FRC's Perkins, who lavishly praised the bill as a defense of religious liberty against things like same-sex marriage.
During the debate over Arizona's SB 1062, cable news networks extensively covered the controversy surrounding the measure. CNN ran multiple segments highlighting the anti-gay group behind the measure and grilled supporters of the bill about its impact on gay and lesbian customers. Even Fox News noted that the law might be an example of right-wing overreach, calling it "profoundly unconstitutional" and "potentially dangerous."
But that concern hasn't carried over into coverage of Mississippi's anti-gay law. According to an Equality Matters analysis, CNN and Fox News have both entirely ignored the passage of Mississippi's Religious Freedom Restoration Act: